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Dog Training Methods

When you ask most people what they think about different dog training methods, they immediately think of a dominance-type method of dog training or a reward-based type of training.

While many would consider these different methods of dog training, I would classify them as different styles of training. When I talk about methods of dog training, I will be talking about a lure-based method, a traditional method, and an opportunistic-based method.

These methods can be used in many different styles of training and are not limited; in fact, a dog should be trained utilizing all three of these methods at one point or another in order to get a well-balanced dog.

Most people are probably familiar with a lure method of dog training. It is a rather easy-to-understand concept that many people can utilize at home after reading a little about it.

“The drawback to using only a lure-based method of training is that many dogs become reactive vs active in their behaviors and only show interest in obeying commands when a reward is in sight.”

This method of dog training is most common in large-brand pet stores and is often taught as the only method to use. The idea behind lure-based methods is simple, put a treat in front of the dog and have them follow that treat until they are in a desired position, such as a sit, and then release the reward.

This can be a very effective method of dog training as it is utilizing the negative punishment quadrant of operant conditioning. This is because the owner is withholding the reward until the behavior is shown, thus punishing all the other undesirable behaviors.

The drawback to using only a lure-based method of training is that many dogs become reactive vs active in their behaviors and only show interest in obeying commands when a reward is in sight.

In order to counteract this problem, owners need to properly fade the lure out of the command. Otherwise the dog will begin to see the lure as part of the command and develop a bad habit of not listening without the presence of the reward.

The traditional method of dog training typically gives people a bad mental image.  Most people upon hearing this automatically think of an old-school dominance style of training, when in fact, it is nothing remotely close to it.

The traditional method of dog training simply puts the dog into the desired position before releasing the reward. This is done by manipulating the dog’s body in a way to get them into that position.

An example would be to run your hand down the back of a dog and then tuck their tail in between their legs so that they sit. This method of dog training can be extremely helpful for dogs that are unsure of what you want from them.

“The last method of training is the opportunistic method.”

Simply guiding the dog into the right position and then rewarding them for it can also be beneficial to timid dogs who lack confidence. This method can also be less stressful for the dog as negative punishment is not being utilized via the withholding of a reward.

Lastly, this method of training is especially useful to get a dog to become an active dog rather than a reactive dog as the dog does not become reliant upon the sight of the reward to carry out the command.

The last method of training is the opportunistic method. This method is quite simply the utilization of opportunities that present themselves.

For example, if your dog decides to sit down you can use that opportunity to mark the behavior with a command and then reward the dog for that behavior. Many dog owners have taught their dogs little tricks by simply adding a command and reward to a behavior that the dog already exhibited.

In fact, some commands are much easier to train utilizing this method. 

For example, teaching a dog to pick up an object is near impossible by utilizing a lure method and can be difficult if utilizing a traditional method, leaving the opportunistic method as the best option to train that specific command.

Using the opportunistic method to train a dog is a great way to instill positive household behaviors and can be a rather fun and exciting way to train. The drawback to using this method however is that you must always be prepared to reward and mark a behavior that you want.

“All three of these dog training methods have their advantages and disadvantages when using them, and that is why it is important to utilize all three of them at various stages in your dog’s training.”

This means always having treats on hand or carried on your person in a treat pouch. Another plus side of utilizing opportunistic methods is that just like traditional methods you do not need to fade a lure and the dog does not become reliant upon the reward in order to perform the behavior.

All three of these dog training methods have their advantages and disadvantages when using them, and that is why it is important to utilize all three of them at various stages in your dog’s training.

Not all dogs will respond to each method in the same way, and by trying each one, you can find what methods work best for you and your dog when teaching them different commands.

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